Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wii Wish Nintendo Would Shove the DSi

Introduction

That's it, I've had enough. As a longtime Nintendo supporter and fanboy, I feel as though it's time even I speak out against one of the most significant companies from my childhood (and early adulthood). I haven't really touched a video game console in months, and it's mostly Nintendo's fault. Such entertainment used to be a great stress reliever and all-around good way for me to relax, but it's difficult to relax when one is the owner of Nintendo's products.

Let me get one thing straight — the NES, the SNES (arguably the best console of all time), the N64 (arguably the weakest mainstream console of all time, but still equipped with plenty of solid games) and the GameCube were all outstanding products. Yeah, the GameCube got lost in the fog of PS2 and XBOX, but a great (then exclusive) Resident Evil 4 release near the end of its life gave it added credibility, and Windwaker really wasn't all that bad, cell-shading and all. I can't help but mention the GameBoy (with its many iterations) either, as it has been a staple in the lives of gamers for two decades now. Of course, I take issue in this post with the GameBoy in a way, as Nintendo has moved from actual new models (i.e., GameBoy to GameBoy Color to Nintendo DS) to a silly prototype progression system (GameBoy Advance to GameBoy Micro; Nintendo DS to Nintendo DS Lite to Nintendo DSi).

As a Nintendo Wii owner, I've been moderately amused but overwhelmingly dissatisfied. The original selling point for the Wii was, well, it's selling point — the Wii was cheap compared to the XBOX 360 and the PS3, and Nintendo promised to offer great titles with a unique control scheme. What Nintendo didn't tell people was how much money it would cost to actually be able to play all of its games, how unfunctional the Wii's online capabilities would be or how expensive their virtual console downloads would be. And, the biggie — how few actual quality games there would be to play.

Cost

Let's take a look at this:

The XBOX 360 starts at $199.99, and that includes a game disc and one wireless controller. Even if you choose the Pro version (which most serious gamers likely prefer), then you only pay $299.99.

The Nintendo Wii starts at $249.99 with one Wiimote and nunchuk, plus Wii Sports, which isn't really a full game, but it's fun enough — then again, it's multiplayer, so you'll want at least one more Wiimote and nunchuk, totaling about an additional $60. Then again, sometimes you'll play a game where you need a more classic controller, the one Nintendo sells for $19.99. And of course, you can't forget to buy the Wii Zapper for the two or three mediocre shooting games out there — the gun (read: piece of plastic that holds your Wiimote and nunchuk in a gun configuration rather than being an actual, fully-functional gun controller) costs $24.99. And don't forget to throw in $9.99 for each Wii wheel to use while you play a Mario Kart title for the Wii that isn't even as good as its DS counterpart. Nintendo also hopes to sucker you out of another $9.99 to buy the Wii Sports pack, a package of plastic snap-ons for your controllers that look like a tennis racket, a golf club, etc. (No, they don't actually do anything.) You should also take note that XBOX 360 allows you to recharge your controllers by plugging them in the system, while you have to shell out cash for batteries every couple of days with the Wii or buy a third-party charging kit that will crap out after about a year.

Online

So aside from potentially sinking more money than it costs to buy a PS3 into being able to play with four players in all of your games, what else has turned me off to Nintendo since owning the Wii? Let's talk online functionality.

The other day I get on my buddy's XBOX 360, and it's online basically as soon as it gets turned on, ready to play XBOX Live. If I turn my Wii on, I pick a game from the channel screen — let's say, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, for instance. Once I tell the game I want to play online, I have to wait a really long time to connect to the Internet. That's if it ever connects. And, oh, by the way, expect plenty of lag when you do try playing the Wii online. And don't even get me started about the lack of voice chat and the use of "friend codes" to be able to play with people you know online. It's all very clunky and downright not very functional.

The same is true concerning virtual console games or using the fun-at-first-but-relatively-boring-after-about-a-week-when-the-newness-wears-off channels on the Wii. Virtual console games were rumored to be relatively affordable before the Wii launched. In reality, WiiWare and virtual console games can cost usually around $10 (yeah, for decades-old games that you have probably already bought once before, and which are probably available online as a free flash game somewhere). And there's still no Goldeneye available for download from the N64. There are also channels where you can vote on a question and see international results or judge and vote on people's custom-designed Miis (though, the lack of overall customizability of the Miis makes this a bad idea in the first place), but these things only distract from the lack of quality games available on the Wii. Which, as transitions often do, brings me to my next point.

Games

Now I knew going into buying a Wii that I'd be missing out on great titles such as Fable II, Halo 3, Halo Wars, Resident Evil 5, Metal Gear Solid 3, Call of Duty 4, etc., that are available on the other systems. Such aforementioned games are console sellers in themselves, and they fall under the category of must-have games for any true hardcore gamer who owns a console on which they can play them. I was OK with this, and I only planned to buy one console this time around, as I don't have enough time to play video games as I did in my early college years anyway. I'm still sticking to my guns so far on that one, even though I've been mostly disappointed in the Wii. I figured Nintendo would keep me busy with plenty of great games, just as they had done with previous systems.

The Wii doesn't really have any games I would consider to be a system seller, though. It doesn't have an equivalent to Halo, though Super Smash Bros. Brawl might be that game in some circles. Zelda games have the potential, but Twilight Princess failed to do it for the Wii. The biggest selling point for the Wii seems to be its initial ease of use with family-friendly games such as Wii Sports, Mario Party and ridiculous periphreals such as Wii Fit, which isn't even a game at all. (Note: Quit trying to fool yourself into thinking that you work out because you use Wii Fit. You're still fat. Go get some real exercise. If, however, you want to be lazy and play a video game, you should have the right to do so without being forced into looking like an idiot while standing on a flimsy white board.)

If you are stuck in the boat of Wii owners, are there at least some of those must-have, awesome games? Well, there are a few. Very few. And therein lies my real problem with the Wii — a lack of those exclusive games that everyone is playing on the other systems. Nintendo has failed to deliver quality first-party games in a timely manner, and the third-party games feature much more realism and better gameplay functionality on the other systems (or companies refuse to program for the Wii's controls and don't do a port at all). Here are must-haves for Wii owners:

  1. Super Smash Bros. Brawl — Every Wii owner should own this game. It has unlimited replay value, multiplayer functionality and medicore online capabilities. The graphics are sufficient for a side-scrolling fighter, and the selling point is that you get to play as your favorite Nintendo characters, plus Sonic and Snake from Sonic the Hedgehog and Metal Gear Solid!
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princes — Almost every gamer who is also pretty intelligent loves the Zelda series. The combination of puzzle solving and action with great storytelling is timeless. However, even though the return to more adult graphics after Windwaker's cell-shadedness was welcome, this game turned out to be half as good and fun as Windwaker. Have someone beat the first grueling, boring half of the game where you play as a dog, then take over and play as Link for a few fleeting moments.
  3. Super Paper Mario — Though there isn't much to keep you playing through this one more than once, it's one of the only RPGs you're going to find for the Wii. So take advantage of how good it actually is.
  4. Super Mario Galaxy — There is quite a bit of replay value here, but you don't hear much discussion about this game. Likely, it's because Super Mario Galaxy is the same thing once again from Nintendo. Mario hasn't changed in years, and while it's a formula that works, it's one that leaves you wondering what's next.
That's it. There are really only about four necessary titles for Wii. Now, honorable mentions could go to Metroid Prime 3, Mario Kart Wii or Wario Land: Shake It!, but none of those titles even make the top five on GameRankings.com for the Wii, and they all have their flaws — Metroid fans alone will truly find the third iteration of Prime to be a satisfying shooter; Mario Kart Wii actually lacks modes that previous versions of the game had, and the number of tracks is pitiful; Wario Land is very fun and utilizes the controller well, but it is beatable in only a day or two.

On the above list of four good games for the Wii, the most recent one came out more than a year ago and until very recently still adorned the main Wii page on Nintendo's Web site. What games are featured as front-page material by Nintendo as of the time of this post? Bonsai Barber, Roogoo Twisted Towers, Excitebots, Hannah Montana, Dance Dance Revolution (Disney edition) and Don King Boxing. All of those titles, with the exception of the last one, are rated E (everyone), with the boxing game rated T (teens). In fact, did you know there are only about 17 M-rated games on the Wii, only one or two of which are even worth playing? Not a very grown-up console at all. After becoming the best-selling console, you'd think Nintendo would at least try to appeal to some mainstream gamers and not just children and families who couldn't beat Yoshi's Story if they tried.

I Know This is Long for a Blog Post, Especially for Relatively Journalizing


I've given the Wii a lot of attention in this much-longer-than-usual blog post, but I'm not finished yet. The whole thing that started me on this tirade against Nintendo was today's release of the Nintendo DSi.

DSi

I bought a DS when they came out because I trusted Nintendo to continue the GameBoy's tradition of dominating the market and making great handheld games. I snubbed the prettier, flashier PSP, which offered more features. As it turned out, that was a good move. The DS sold well and quickly became the hottest thing on the market, and Nintendo kept pumping out plenty of fun titles. However, it wasn't long before the DS Lite was released. So, I traded my DS in for the sleeker, more-functional new version. I was getting rid of my old XBOX and PS2 at the time, so I made the trade at virtually no new cost for myself and got plenty of games at the same time. There have been lots of third-party periphreals for the DS Lite during the past year or so, though the game releases have slacked off a bit (aside from the new Pokémon game every week). I suppose people modifying their DS Lite to surf the Web or play movies led to the creation of the new DSi, which offers a built-in camera, a la Apple's iSight, and many other functions such as downloadable games and Web browsing. The DSi seems like a complete package, and it looks amazing. I'm not faulting Nintendo in any way with the DSi, other than to ask, why didn't you just release the finished product initially? Instead of suckering your devoted customers into buying the same product three different times, you could have waited until you finished the product and sold it to us initially without selling us unfinished prototypes!

Give Credit Where It's Due

Nintendo created gaming. Sure, there were Atari and various others before them, but Nintendo made gaming what it is today. It would be difficult to find a loyal gamer today who didn't get his or her start on an NES, and Nintendo is betraying those dedicated fans by selling them multiple prototypes to see how many times they will buy the same product (hm, sounds like virtual console too) in addition to failing to provide hardcore gamers with the games their age and experience groups want. It's all par for the course I guess from the makers of a console that doesn't look near as impressive as it did when the white on the Wiimotes was still gleaming and the feel of motion-sensing technology still had that new Mario Kart smell.

Note: Cost estimates mentioned in this post were taken from Gamestop.com.

5 comments:

Warren said...

I totally agree with you. The Wii is now the only console I own. I grew up as a PC gamer and then in high school and college I became an Xbox gamer and now I'm actually back to PC games again. We do own a Wii because it provides something that a PC can't and it's fun to play with friends over sometimes, but I'm dissatisfied with the games available. I own and have beat all the games in your top 4, but besides that I haven't found anything else that has really held my interest. I didn't have a Gamecube though and I'm getting some further use out of the Wii by playing some older titles (I'm playing Wind Waker now), but honestly our Wii gets turned on maybe once a month and for something we sunk so much money into buying all the accessories is pretty sad. Then there is the DSi, the last straw. I was pretty certain I wouldn't buy another console, but I think all of this has sealed the deal for me.

JD said...

Glad to know it's not just me. I also have resorted to PC (well, Mac, which is tough to find good games for as well) gaming again. I'm brushing up on my StarCraft skills in hopes that Blizzard will finally release StarCraft II this year.

Thanks for reading, Warren.

Warren said...

By PC I mean a windows partition on my MBP. I recently opened mine up and installed a 500gb hard drive. I use the windows partition strictly for games.

Wes said...

Hey Josh, i see what you're saying about how Nintendo is abandoning its original audience in order to reach out to the casual market, and I agree mostly. The problem is that Nintendo is doing SOMETHING right because they are practically printing money with the DS and Wii. As hardcore as "Hardcore Gamers" can be, there are a heck of a lot more kids and old people who find the casual titles and style very appealing. And the casual gamer's money spends just as well as the hardcore ones. I go to the store now and I see 20 junk titles for the Wii and a few good ones interlaced with them. It's almost ridiculous. I mean, Carnival Games is one of the top selling Wii games ever! I had never heard of it and I still don't know what it is! So a few months later Circus games appear, then Clown games, then Carnival Games 2, etc and so on, further proving that the audience for this garbage doesn't even read the cover, they see bright colors and then they buy it! Sorry to sound harsh, but being a hardcore gamer myself, it pisses me off that titles with any credibility are being shelved and canceled these days because it's cheaper and more lucrative for companies to make 10 low budget games like this that I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot Wiimote.

Next on the topic of Virtual Console. Yeah it's basically a gimmick. haha But I love the fact I can buy some of these older RPG's, which is the one saving grace of that whole channel for me. Some people buy this stuff for nostalgic value. For example, I've repurchased most of the Mario games I grew up playing, and I still turn them on now and then, and it's very convenient not having to hook up any other systems. On a positive note though, Squeenix has announced that all their older FF games are coming to VC, so that is exciting if you're into those games. My argument is that I missed out on a LOT of these titles since back in the day I went with the Genesis and didn't get a lot of SNES games. (total agreement on the SNES > Genesis debate.) So I think it's neat to get to play them for cheap.

My biggest issue with Nintendo's newest systems as a whole is something you mentioned briefly in your post. I hate how they ALWAYS seem behind with the technology. Lets talk Wii memory. Yeah it's got some flash memory...whatever, so this last system update now grants me the precious gift of allowing me to put my channels/VC games on an SD card! yay! Ok so now I'm allowed to put the stuff I bought on an SD card and just start them up, right? No! I can STORE them there, but to USE them, I have to transfer them back to the system memory? What exactly is convenient about this process? Especially for people who've spent a fortune on these retro games already and actually DO play them? It's ridiculous.

Next up: DSi. Yea, it bugs me they've put out 3 versions of the DS now, yes, I've done just like you and purchased them as they came out. Yes, they are slight improvements each time. And last of all, yeah, i'm totally getting a DSi at some point as well. LOL You sort of answered your own question concerning why Nintendo put out all of these "prototype" versions. Because suckers like us buy them every time they make it a little smaller, a little better and a little shinier. (Metaphorically speaking of course, since the DSi appears to have a matte finish...available now at your local Walmart starting at $169.99)

As far as Wii software that are good titles. I noticed you picked all first party titles to write about. That's always been one of Nintendo's strong points...but also a weak one since they've never had the 3rd party support due to lack of cutting edge hardware and developer interest. BUT...due to their unique control scheme, MOST of the exclusive 3rd party games this time around STAY exclusive because they are built just for the motion controls. That has helped a lot since the few exclusives they do get will stay exclusive for that very reason. A prime example of a very Mature rated game that stayed exclusive would be No More Heroes by...Capcom I think? Not exactly game of the year material, but still very unique and very exclusive to the system. Also the next Monster Hunter title is going to be a Wii exclusive supposedly, and those games sell incredibly well in Japan and the U.S. So perhaps some good 3rd party games will keep us hardcore gamers interested this generation. We’ll see.

I'm going to stop now, but this was an excellent article you wrote, Josh! I look forward to debating this stuff some more. Keep it coming!

JD said...

Outstanding comment. I need to try No More Heroes, but it just didn't look all that appealing to me, and I frankly am sort of saving my money for other things nowadays unless they would release a big one on the Wii. (Maybe another Zelda? Oh wait, no, that's coming out on the DSi.)

Alas, I love Nintendo and its games, but they make it so difficult to do just about anything (like in your SD Card example).

You're absolutely correct about how they probably won't stop this madness because the crappy games are selling like hotcakes and helping Nintendo dominate the market. All I know is that for every Joe Gamer they gain, they are probably going to lose a loyal gamer like myself to Microsoft in the next round of consoles, if I even buy one.